US House Democrats set out rules for Trump impeachment inquiry

Bloomberg Washington | Updated on October 30, 2019

US House Democrats will put Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff in the lead of the next phase of its impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump, as the investigation moves into public hearings, under the terms of a resolution released on Tuesday.

The resolution sets no deadlines to finish the investigations, or for putting together any articles of impeachment. But it sets out some parameters for the role of Republicans at hearings and, eventually, Trump and his legal counsel.

In all, six committees will continue their existing probes, and the scope of their investigations will not be limited, indicating that the Democrats will continue to pursue inquiries involving Trump’s finances and will not focus exclusively on his dealings with Ukraine.

“Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn first hand about the President’s misconduct,” the leaders of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Judiciary panels, which have taken lead in the inquiry, said in a statement. A vote on the resolution is set for Thursday, and its likely to be approved on a party-line vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the vote on a measure outlining the next steps in the impeachment inquiry amid criticism from Republicans about testimony thus far being heard behind closed doors and about their inability to call witnesses. The resolution says that the next phase of the impeachment inquiry will be open and transparent.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a statement, said that the resolution confirms that House Democrats impeachment has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorisation by a House vote. Grisham said that House Democrats are refusing to give the administration basic due process rights.

The resolution gives the ranking Republican on the Intelligence committee, Devin Nunes, the right to subpoena witnesses with Schiff’s approval. If the Chairman declines a subpoena request, the minority members can request a vote of the full committee.

The resolution does not begin formal impeachment proceedings, but sets up the mechanism by which articles of impeachment could be drafted.

Gathering evidence

The resolution calls for the Intelligence Committee to send all evidence and a recommendation on impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, in consultation with the panel on Oversight and Foreign Affairs.

That recommendation is to be made public, including all attachments and depositions. Other committees would also be authorised to send relevant items to the Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary panel is authorised to conduct impeachment hearings and to send articles of impeachment to the House for a vote if it deems they are warranted. The resolution allows for the participation of the president and his counsel in the Judiciary proceedings but does not give details of what form that would take.

The White House said in the statement that the process remains unfair because the administration is barred from participating until after two rounds of one-sided hearings to generate a biased report for the Judiciary Committee.

Schiff and other Democrats have said that they already have enough significant evidence, even without testimony from those directly in Trump’s orbit, that the president attempted to pressure the government of Ukraine for help with the presidents personal political interests by withholding military aid.

Members of both parties say Trump’s eventual impeachment by the Democratic-led House is all but inevitable. The subsequent trial would be conducted by the Senate, where Republicans have a majority. So far, there is no sign that enough GOP senators would break ranks to convict Trump.

Republicans slam the investigation

Republicans said Pelosi’s decision to hold a House vote after nearly three weeks of closed-door witness interviews by the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs committees was vindication for their stance that the investigation to date has not been legitimate.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California on Tuesday said the investigation up to now has been a sham. Any testimony or documents collected during the existing process would be the fruit from the poisoned tree, he said, using the legal term for evidence that was illegally obtained.

Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, blasted the Democrats for not having such a resolution when they began the inquiry and that the investigation is going to be just as illegitimate come Thursday when they have this vote.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight panel, said he expects every single Republican will be voting against the resolution on Thursday. Moderate Republicans Tom Reed of New York and Will Hurd of Texas said they were unlikely to support it.

The resolution was released as the three committees leading the inquiry were getting a key piece of evidence. An Army officer assigned to the White House National Security Council testified that he listened to Trump’s July telephone call with Ukraine’s president and was so disturbed by the conversation that he reported it to the National Security Council’s lawyer.

I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US governments support of Ukraine, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said in a statement prepared for the inquiry.

Published on October 30, 2019

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